Things under the hood stayed rela-tively low key for the first three years of ownership, with mods limited to simple induction- and exhaust-system bolt-ons. Then after the factory warranty expired, Tim bought Laurinda a new '02 Trans Am of her own, reclaimed ownership of what should have been his car in the first place, and went all out. "By 2001, there were tons of parts coming out for the LS1, and I was getting left behind by the competition," he recalls. Tim installed a set of ported heads and a larger cam. And although the combo dropped a valve before he had a chance to run it at the track, it laid down 390 rear-wheel horsepower. With the stock short-block now trashed, Tim built a new forged 346ci bottom end and matched it up with a larger cam and a more aggressive set of heads. Despite the lack of cubes, the motor was good for 475 hp at the wheels and deep-11-second e.t.'s. It served admirably for several years, until lifter woes wiped out the cam and block.
Although blowing your junk up isn't anything to celebrate, the timing couldn't have been better. It was late 2006 when Tim's 346 went kaput, right about the time that GMPP announced the new LSX iron block, and several manufacturers flooded the market with new LS-series head castings. Taking advantage of the situation, Tim pieced together a 454ci combination using an LSX block and Trick Flow 235cc heads with the help of Late Model Engines (latemodelengines.com). Just as impressive as its naturally aspirated output of 624 rear-wheel horsepower is the fact that it gets the job done with a hydraulic roller cam (253/259 at 0.050) on pump gas. To make good use of the GMPP block, a yet-to-be-tested Nitrous Express dual-stage nitrous system adds another 300 hp on demand. While the 454 hasn't been down the track yet, Tim estimates mid-10s on the motor, which may be a bit on the conservative side.
Since those who grew up around musclecars typically choose to build musclecars, it seems rather odd that Tim is so smitten with late-models. After questioning him on the matter, his reasoning makes perfect sense. "Everything I'd done before I built this car was old-school, and I always thought hopping up a late-model was something different, a good way to maintain streetability while getting good mileage," Tim opines. "When I saw the LS engine platform, I knew I had to get it. All the other hot rods I've owned only got 6 miles per gallon. With the Trans Am, I can have more than 700 hp and get 18 miles per gallon with the A/C and stereo cranked up." Tim makes some great points, and we must concede that not many true street cars pack that kind of grunt. If you happen to fall victim to a particular black Trans Am, just blame it on Winston.
Tech NotesWhat: '98 Pontiac Trans Am
Owner: Tim and Laurinda Reggio
Hometown: Katy, Texas, where Roger "My Trainer's a Liar" Clemens also calls home.
Engine: LS1s are getting cheaper to build by the day, and Tim's 454 is based on one of the first GMPP LSX blocks released to the public. An overbore of 4.187 inches leaves plenty of meat for future rebuilds but still yields oversquare dimensions, even when combined with a Callies 4.125-inch-stroke crank. It swings a set of Callies H-beam rods and Wiseco 11.8:1 pistons. The CNC-ported Trick Flow 235cc heads feature 2.08/1.60-inch valves, 70cc chambers, and flow 345 cfm at 0.600-inch lift. On the chassis dyno, the Trans Am lays down 624 hp and 578 lb-ft.
Valvetrain: The Cam Motion 253/259 at 0.050 cam is a hydraulic roller yet packs 0.643/0.613-inch lift on a nitrous-friendly 114-degree LSA and revs to 7,200 rpm. A factory LS2 double-roller timing set synchs it up with the crank, and Jesel shaft-mount rockers kick the valves.
Induction: The ported FAST intake manifold is fed by a 90mm Nick Williams throttle body. A Racetronic fuel pump, SVO 42 lb/hr injectors, and a reprogrammed stock computer manage the fuel and spark.